terça-feira, 31 de dezembro de 2013

nasa web news ufo

Posted: 30 Dec 2013 06:08 PM PST
The sun has "flipped upside down", with its north and south poles reversed to reach the midpoint of Solar Cycle 24, Nasa has said.

Now, the magnetic fields will once again started moving in opposite directions to begin the completion of the 22 year long process which will culminate in the poles switching once again.

Nasa has released a visualisation of the entire process.

The visualisation shows the position of the sun's magnetic fields from January 1997 to December 2013. The field lines swarm with activity: The magenta lines show where the sun's overall field is negative and the green lines show where it is positive. A region with more electrons is negative, the region with less is labeled positive. Additional gray lines represent areas of local magnetic variation.

The entire sun's magnetic polarity, flips approximately every 11 years -- though sometimes it takes quite a bit longer -- and defines what's known as the solar cycle. The visualization shows how in 1997, the sun shows the positive polarity on the top, and the negative polarity on the bottom. Over the next 12 years, each set of lines is seen to creep toward the opposite pole eventually showing a complete flip. By the end of the movie, each set of lines are working their way back to show a positive polarity on the top to complete the full 22 year magnetic solar cycle.

At the height of each magnetic flip, the sun goes through periods of more solar activity, during which there are more sunspots, and more eruptive events such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections, or CMEs. The point in time with the most sunspots is called solar maximum.

Posted: 29 Dec 2013 08:57 PM PST
On December 28 and December 29 strange phenomena appear in the sky over Neumayer Station in Antarctica.

December 28, 2013:
A weird light appears in the clouds over the Neumayer station, Antarctica. We wonder, could It be a natural phenomenon caused by the sun behind the clouds or it is more mysterious.

Weird Light

December 29, 2013:
Again strange phenomena in the sky above the station.

03.50 UTC: Delta shaped craft / Triangle UFO visible in the cloud formation.

04.10 UTC: UFO / Flying Saucer visible in the cloud formation.

Delta Shaped Craft 

Flying Saucer

Again we wonder, are these objects just clouds and part of the cloud formation or the Neumayer cam captured two UFOs?

Suppose these ‘clouds’ are Unidentified Flying Objects, are they man-made and part of a secret project or extraterrestrial?

We would love to hear your thoughts on this phenomenon.

Webcams at Neumayer Station:


Posted: 31 Dec 2013 06:51 AM PST
Artist impression of Mars One human settlement on Mars. Credit: Mars One

Across the globe, 1058 hopefuls have been selected as candidates to begin human life on Mars in 2025. On December 30, 2013, Mars One announced the selection of the candidates from the applicant pool of over 200,000 hoping to establish human life on Martian soil. Mars One co-founder Bas Lansdorp describes the remaining 1058 candidates as our first tangible glimpse into what the new human settlement will truly look like. Lansdorp says “We’re extremely appreciative and impressed with the sheer number of people who submitted their applications. However, the challenge with 200,000 applicants is separating those who we feel are physically and mentally adept to become human ambassadors on Mars from those who are obviously taking the mission much less seriously. We even had a couple of applicants submit their videos in the nude!”

Selection criteria is outlined in detail on the Mars One website at

All applicants were notified Monday via e-mail of their application status. For the applicants who were not selected in this round, there is still a chance they could reapply at a later date, which has not yet been determined.

According to Lansdorp, the chance for reapplication provides hope. “US astronaut Clayton Anderson was rejected by NASA for its astronaut training program 15 times, yet in 2007 he boarded the Space Shuttle Atlantis for a trip to the International Space Station. He proved anything can happen and the door is never completely closed.”

So what’s next for the 1058 pre-selected Mars hopefuls? Norbert Kraft, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Mars One and recipient of the 2013 NASA Group Achievement Award says, “The next several selection phases in 2014 and 2015 will include rigorous simulations, many in team settings, with focus on testing the physical and emotional capabilities of our remaining candidates. We expect to begin understanding what is motivating our candidates to take this giant leap for humankind. This is where it really gets exciting for Mars One, our applicants, and the communities they’re a part of.”

Countries participating in the first round of the Mars One Astronaut Selection Program. Credit:
Countries participating in the first round of the Mars One Astronaut Selection Program. Credit:

Details of the 2014 selection phases have not been agreed upon due to ongoing negotiations with media companies for the rights to televise the selection processes. Expect further information to be released in early 2014. Lansdorp says, “We fully anticipate our remaining candidates to become celebrities in their towns, cities, and in many cases, countries. It’s about to get very interesting.”

Here's what the numbers tell us about Mars' potential future inhabitants:
  • 55 percent of the new applicant pool is male and 45 percent is female.
  • 63 percent have a bachelor's degree or higher, while 3 percent of the total hold medical degrees.
  • 76 percent of applicants are employed, 15 percent are still in school, and 8 percent are unemployed.
  • 43 percent of applicants come from the Americas, 27 percent from Europe, 21 percent from Asia, 5 percent from Africa, and 4 percent from Oceania.
  • The United States has the strongest showing in the second round with 297 applicants, and 458 come from the Americas in general. After that, 282 are from Europe and 218 from Asia, including 52 from Russia and 62 from India — the largest national envoys outside the US and Canada. A total of 107 countries have candidates in the second round.
  • 34 percent of potential Martians are younger than 25, about 65 percent are between the ages of 26 and 55, and 2 percent are older than 56.
This announcement comes on the heels of a wild finish to 2013 for Mars One. On December 10th, Mars One launched their first ever crowd-funding campaign, focused on bringing funds and attention to the first mission, an unmanned trip to Mars scheduled for 2018. On the same day as the crowd-funding campaign launch, Mars One announced in Washington DC, agreements with aerospace titan Lockheed Martin and the world’s leading small satellite company Surrey Satellite Technology to develop mission plans for the 2018 mission. 2014 figures to be even busier for the team at Mars One than 2013, with multiple applicant selection phases, worldwide education events, and more.

Posted: 31 Dec 2013 06:00 AM PST
Gaofen 1. Credit:

China's high-definition Earth observation satellite, the Gaofen-1, has been formally put into service, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND) announced Monday. The satellite has undergone eighth months of in-orbit tests since it blasted off on April 26. It has met requirements and even performed better than expected by sending back high quality photos, according to SASTIND. The satellite will help in geographic and resources surveys, environment and climate change monitoring, precision agriculture, disaster relief and city planning.

Its major users will be the Land and Resources, Environmental Protection and Agriculture Ministries.

Gaofen-1 means China's is self-sufficient in more high-resolution Earth observation data, and China's use of remote-sensing satellite has entered a new phase, said Xu Dazhe, head of the SASTIND.

Gaofen-1 provided data on the Lushan earthquake in Sichuan; floods in northeast China; and the smog in north and east China during the test period. It also provided Pakistan with image data after the Sept. 24 earthquake.

Gaofen-1 was the first of five or six satellites to be launched for high-definition Earth observation before 2016. It is also the first low-orbit remote-sensing satellite designed to be in use for longer than five years.

It carries two 2m panchromatic/8m multispectral high-definition cameras, and four 16m resolution wide-angle cameras, which means it can capture images of a car or even a bicycle on the Earth.

Wang Chengwen, deputy head of the Gaofen projects, said that Gaofen-1's efficiency of Earth observation is much higher compared to other remote-sensing satellites.

The Gaofen-2 satellite is scheduled to be launched early in 2014.

Posted: 31 Dec 2013 05:47 AM PST
A conceptual drawing showing a launch complex at the Shiloh site near Kennedy Space Center. Residents will soon get the chance to weigh-in on the controversial proposal. Courtesy of Space Florida/BRPH

Two public meetings in February will give local residents the chance to weigh in on a controversial state proposal to develop launch pads at northern end of Kennedy Space Center in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The meetings on Feb. 11 and 12 mark the start of a Federal Aviation Administration-led study of potential environmental impacts from Space Florida’s proposed Shiloh launch complex. The complex is named for the citrus community located near the Brevard-Volusia border before NASA seized the land for the Apollo moon program.

Officials will seek input on “potential issues that may need to be evaluated” by the study, according to an announcement last week in the Federal Register.

New Smyrna Beach High School will host the first forum on Feb. 11, and the Titusville campus of Eastern Florida State College the second on Feb. 12.

Both are scheduled from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., starting with an open house workshop followed by an FAA overview of the environmental study process and a public comment period.

Public comments may also be submitted by mail, e-mail and fax through Feb. 21.

Generally supported by business interests and opposed by environmentalists, the Shiloh complex represents Space Florida’s bid to keep commercial launches by companies like SpaceX from moving to other states.

The U.S. once dominated commercial satellite launches, but they are now are flown almost entirely overseas.

SpaceX is winning some of those missions back and wants a launch site independent from its existing sites at government-controlled facilities on Cape Canaveral and in California. The company says Texas is the leading contender to win its commercial launch site.

Shiloh would consist of one or two launch pads on up to 200 acres of land now owned by NASA and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with each pad fencing off about 30 acres.

Each pad could support up to 12 launches a year of medium- to heavy-lift, liquid-fueled rockets, and as many test firings of their booster engines.

Supporting facilities and a launch control center could be located in nearby Oak Hill or another site in southern Volusia County.

The environmental study, to be performed by Cardno TEC Inc., is expected to take more than a year to complete.

The FAA would then decide whether or not to issue Space Florida a license to operate the commercial spaceport.

Posted: 30 Dec 2013 10:49 PM PST
The High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) onboard the ESA spacecraft Mars Express took this image of Phobos using the HRSC nadir channel on 7 March 2010, HRSC Orbit 7915. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

On Sunday, at 5:17 p.m. GMT (12:17 p.m. EST), ESA’s Mars Express orbiter successfully completed closest-ever flyby of Mars’ largest moon Phobos, skimming past at only 45 km above its surface. The flyby was so close and fast that Mars Express was not able to take any images, but instead it yielded the most accurate details yet of the moon’s gravitational field and, in turn, provided new details of its internal structure. At the time of flyby, Mars Express was transmitting a “continuous radio signal across 208 million km of space” to NASA’s radio antennae near Madrid, Spain, wrote Daniel Scuka at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), Darmstadt, Germany, in a blog update.

The 70 meter radio antenna is part of NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN), which precisely tracked the spacecraft’s signal. Post-flyby, NASA’s 70 meter Goldstone DSN antenna in the Mojave Desert, Calif., and ESA’s 35 meter antenna at New Norcia in Australia continued to track the mission.

"NASA DSN have reported that they collected good data at their Madrid 70m station during the flyby and saw 'a slight effect in the Doppler residuals, as expected.' This slight effect is caused by the gravitational field of Phobos accelerating the Mars Express spacecraft as it flies past the moon and is the signal that we are trying to measure!" wrote James Godfrey at ESOC. "Now it is up to the radio scientists to examine the measurements made on the radio signals and to determine the effect of the uneven (non-spherical) mass distribution of this oddly shaped moon, Phobos, on Mars Express." he added.

Mars Express orbiting the Red Planet - artist's impression. Credit: ESA/Alex Lutkus
Mars Express orbiting the Red Planet - artist's impression. Credit: ESA/Alex Lutkus

In order to perform the Phobos flyby radio science measurements, the spacecraft needed to have its high gain antenna dish pointed at Earth for the entire duration of the flyby operations. This meant that ESOC team were not able to conduct observations with any of the other instruments (which would need to be pointed at Mars). However, the team have been able to take advantage of the flyby time to transmit to Earth an additional 200Gbits of science data that had been recorded on board the spacecraft during the past few days. This included some more pictures of Phobos that were taken when the spacecraft passed 500km from the moon one week ago.

If you were standing on the (lumpy) surface of Phobos and looked up, the animation below shows more or less what you would see: ESA's spacecraft as a pinpoint of light slowly but steadily advancing across the sky.

Earlier flybys, including the previous closest approach of 67 km in March 2010, have already suggested that the moon could be between a quarter and a third empty space – essentially a rubble pile with large spaces between the rocky blocks that make up the moon’s interior.

Knowing the structure of the roughly 27 x 22 x 18 km Phobos will help to solve a big mystery concerning its origin and that of its more distant sibling, Deimos, which orbits Mars at approximately three times greater distance.

Phobos seen from 500 km on 22 December 2013. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)
Phobos seen from 500 km on 22 December 2013. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

The leading theories propose that the duo are either asteroids captured by Mars, or that they were born from debris thrown up from giant impacts on Mars.

“By making close flybys of Phobos with Mars Express in this way, we can help to put constraints on the origin of these mysterious moons,” says Olivier Witasse, ESA’s Mars Express project scientist.

Credit: ESA
Posted: 30 Dec 2013 02:18 PM PST
NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins enjoys time in the Cupola, which affords the most broad views of Earth. Credit: NASA

The six-member Expedition 38 crew is getting ready for another eventful year of scientific research, finishing up 2013 with medical research activities. Both NASA and Russian spacewalkers also are cleaning up after three fast-paced spacewalks. With one exception, all station systems are powered up and running normally following two spacewalks by NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins to replace a degraded cooling system pump module. The new pump module is working well, which allows electrical systems cooled by that loop to be put back into full service. The last string of power to the European Space Agency’s Columbus laboratory is scheduled to be brought back on line Tuesday.

Hopkins started his day working in the Human Research Facility (HRF) and collecting biological samples for stowage inside a science freezer. In the afternoon he used the HRF’s space linear acceleration mass measurement device (SLAMMD) to calculate his body mass. SLAMMD subjects a crew member to a known force and the resulting acceleration provides a body mass measurement that is accurate to within a half-pound.

Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata also joined Hopkins for SLAMMD measurements in the afternoon. Earlier in the day, Wakata set up gear for the SPRINT study that evaluates the use of high-intensity, low-volume exercise to minimize muscle and bone loss and heart shrinkage during long-duration space missions. He also checked instrumentation inside the Combustion Integrated Rack used for experiments involving flames and flame suppression.

Mastracchio partnered with Hopkins in the morning for spinal scans using the Ultrasound 2 probe and software. The scans were conducted with assistance from ground doctors who were viewing the session in real-time. Throughout the day, Mastracchio worked various maintenance tasks such as sampling the station’s water for analysis, changing out a flash disc on a camera and removing a jumper cable in the Unity node.

Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy are cleaning up after a Friday spacewalk that lasted 8 hours and 7 minutes. They started Monday stowing their spacewalk tools and checking them into the inventory management system. Afterward, they returned the Zvezda service module and the Pirs docking compartment to their normal post-spacewalk configuration.

Flight Engineer and veteran cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin installed a dosimeter to detect radiation. He also connected cables on water tanks and checked fans inside Zvezda.

Credit: NASA
Posted: 30 Dec 2013 12:48 PM PST
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashed and engineers at the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST). Credit:

Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum on Sunday launched the executive phases for building the Khalifa Sat, the first satellite to be fully built and manufactured at the hands of 100% UAE competent experts and to be place on orbit by 2017. Khalifa Sat will be the first Arab-made satellite, catapulting the Arab region into a new era of space industry and competition in space sciences. While launching the promising project at the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST), Sheikh Mohammed said ''Khalifa Sat is a message to all Arabs that Arab ushering into the space era is neither out of reach nor impossible and our State will be a leader in this industry as long as we have the confidence and courage to enter into competition with major countries in this field.''

Sheikh Mohammed dedicated the new ambitious scientific achievement to President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. 

''Our doors will remain open for cooperation with all Arab countries in space technology and engineering,'' Sheikh Mohammed added.

''We are extremely delighted at seeing sons and daughters of the UAE forming the first Arab team to build a satellite and launch it into outer space in 2017..... our confidence in them is boundless and our ambitions are the sky's the limit and success comes from Allah,'' Sheikh Mohammed said.

He affirmed during his visit to EISAST that :'' Excellence of our youth in space sciences, engineering and energy opens before our State new huge development prospects and new avenues which will have set foot for the first time.

The vice president said that he will personally follow up the Khalifa Sat work team, revealing that the government will embark on setting up similar teams in other fields.

''When I look at the outstanding Emirati performers I always say this is what the late founding fathers Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum planted and today we are harvesting the fruits for building capacities of Emirati citizen.'' During the visit, Sheikh Mohammed heard from the Emirati experts and engineers about EIAST's plan to build the new Khalifa Sat which will be launch into the outer space.

He also viewed plans and designs of facilities for building satellites in 2015.

At EIAST, a powerful integrated national team of 45 high caliber engineers and experts are currently establishing advanced facilities and high-tech laboratories for building the promising humidity and dust- proof Sat.

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashed and engineers at the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST). Credit:
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashed and engineers at the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST). Credit:

EIAST has launched two sats: DubaiSat 1 and DubaiSat 2 which marked a national milestone as they were the first Remote Sensing satellites to be fully-owned by a UAE entity.

Sheikh Mohammed was accompanied by launch ceremony by Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Gargawi, Minister for Cabinet Affairs, Lt. General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, Deputy Chairman of Police and Public Security. Major General Mohammed Ahmed Al Qamzi, Chairman of EIAST, Khalifa Saeed Salman, Director General of Dubai Department of Protocol and EIAST board members.

Posted: 30 Dec 2013 12:13 PM PST
Three of SpaceIL's founders -- Yariv Bash, Yonatan Winetraub, and Kfir Damari -- with a model of the spacecraft they propose to send to the moon (photo credit: Alon Hadar)

Israel’s moonshot project is a lot closer to reality after the SpaceIL organization, which is developing the Israeli spacecraft that will journey to the moon in 2015, acquired this month the engine for the rocket that will blast Israel’s lunar lander into space. The Israel-developed propulsion system, produced by Israel Aircraft Industries, cost several million dollars, SpaceIL said, and is “among the most critical components of the project,” the organization added. SpaceIL is the Israeli organization that is building a “blue and white” spacecraft to compete in Google’s big Lunar X contest, which promises to award $30 million to a team that can land an unmanned, robotic craft on the moon. SpaceIL is committed to contribute the potential prize money for promoting science and scientific education in Israel.

Once there, the craft will need to carry out several missions, such as taking high-definition video and beaming it back to earth, and exploring the surface of the moon by moving, or sending out a vehicle, that will move 500 meters along the moon’s surface.

SpaceIL’s mission, as the organization describes it, is to successfully build, launch into space, and land on the moon a space capsule, making Israel the fourth country in the world to achieve this. Over 250 volunteers are working on SpaceIL, and the project has numerous corporate and academic sponsors – most notably Israeli telecom giant Bezeq, which, besides helping with the funding, is providing optical fiber technology that will transmit the entire drama back to earth. The money, said SpaceIL, will be used largely to help fund scientific education in Israel.

SpaceIL will be competing against teams from all over the world, seeking to take home not only the prize, but the national glory that will come with being one of the select few (among them the USA, Russia, China, and Japan) to have landed a probe on the moon.

Israel’s “secret sauce,” said SpaceIL, will be its probe’s lightness. The entire thing, including the propulsion system, will weigh less than 150 kilograms (330 pounds). The probe itself – the only part of the craft that will actually reach the moon – will weigh no more than 40 kilograms, with the rest taken up by the engines and fuel tanks (the fuel tanks and fuel weigh 90 kilograms). It’s a long way to the moon, though – 384,000 kilometers – so in order to save on fuel and weight, the SpaceIL craft will hitch a ride with a commercial satellite rocket that will take it beyond the atmosphere, ejecting it after passing the earth’s field of gravity. The organization is currently discussing several launch possibilities, it said.

The SpaceIL craft won’t just be very light; it will be very small, as well. The probe will measure less than a meter long, making it the smallest probe ever to hit the lunar surface. Though small in volume, the probe will be rich in technology, with advanced cameras, computers, and recording equipment installed to record the adventure and transmit data back to earth. Its small size, the SpaceIL team hopes, will give Team Israel’s probe a leg up on other competitors.

Commenting on the propulsion system deal, SpaceIL CEO Dr. Eran Privman said “the propulsion system, together with the computer system already acquired last June, has brought the reality of the SpaceIL probe closer than ever.”

SpaceIL is based primarily on the work of over 250 volunteers, and is supported by a wide range of partners and supporters, such as Israeli Aerospace Industries, academia and business associations.

Posted: 30 Dec 2013 11:06 AM PST
The Orbital Science Corporation Antares rocket is seen shortly after it was raised into position at launch Pad-0A, December 17, 2013, at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, VA. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The NASA Wallops Flight Facility and Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport are set to support the launch of Orbital Sciences’ Corp. Antares rocket at 1:55 p.m. EST, Jan. 7. The Antares rocket will carry Orbital’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station. The cargo craft will be filled with 2,780 pounds of supplies for the station, including vital science experiments to expand the research capability of the Expedition 38 crew members aboard the orbiting laboratory, crew provisions, spare parts and experiment hardware.

Also aboard the flight are 23 student experiments that will involve more than 10,000 students on the ground. These experiments will involve life sciences topics ranging from amoeba reproduction to calcium in the bones to salamanders.

The launch may be visible, weather permitting, to residents throughout the mid-Atlantic region from New York City to North Carolina.

Public viewing of the launch will be available at the NASA Visitor Center at Wallops and at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge/Assateague National Seashore. Visitors are reminded that alcohol and pets are not allowed on the Visitor Center grounds.

For more information about the Visitors Center, including directions, see:

Live coverage of the mission is scheduled to begin at 8:45 a.m. on the Wallops Ustream site at:

Credit: NASA
Posted: 30 Dec 2013 10:08 AM PST
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield speaks at a news conference where he announced his plans to retire from the Canadian Space Agency, in Longueuil, Que., Monday, June 10, 2013. (Paul Chiasson / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is calling for cooperation with China in space and wants it to be part of any international effort to return to the moon, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported Sunday on its website. "I think right now a lot of people see it as kind of crazy to cooperate with the Chinese, but I think it's the next logical step," CBC quoted Hadfield as saying in a recent interview with the Canadian Press. China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003. Hadfield said China's ambitious space program aims to eventually put an astronaut on the moon.

He also cited the fact that China launched in 2011 an experimental space station, saying it will be replaced with a more permanent one to be completed in 2020.

However, China was barred from participating in the current orbiting space station, largely because of U.S. objections over political differences.

Hadfield said a logical progression would be to include as many countries as possible in an international mission beyond Earth -- "hopefully including China and India and the other countries that have launch capability and then progress to the next stepping stone, the next natural waypoint out to space, which is the moon."

Hadfield, who became a Canadian astronaut in 1992, visited Mir in November 1995 on the U.S. Space Shuttle Atlantis, becoming the only Canadian to ever board the Russian space station.

"If you predicted in 1989 that I would fly on an American shuttle to go build a Russian spaceship, people would have said you were crazy," said Hadfield, who last March became the first Canadian to command the International Space Station.

"So I think looking forward, there's a great opportunity to include the Chinese in the world space program -- the international space program," Hadfield added.

Hadfield attracted worldwide attention with his dramatic photos of the Earth, his tweets and his Space Oddity video during his space station visit which began when he blasted off in December 2012. He retired after returning to Earth in mid-May 2013 and is now an adjunct professor with the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

Iain Christie, executive vice-president of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, which represents the interests of more than 700 aerospace companies across Canada, said China's presence in space cannot be ignored.

"I think China is back where we were in North America 50 years ago," he said in the interview. "I am hopeful that their enthusiasm for space becomes infectious to the rest of us."

Christie said decisions will have to be made in the coming years.

"We're going to have to decide what to do about engaging with China in space -- whether it's to be more collaborative or more competitive," he concluded.



Doubling Down With Rare White Dwarf Systems
In the middle of the twentieth century, an unusual star was spotted in the constellation of Canes Venatici (Latin for “hunting dogs”). Years later, astronomers determined that this object, dubbed AM Canum Venaticorum (or, AM CVn, for short), was, in fact, two stars. These stars revolve around each other every 18 minutes, and are predicted to generate gravitational waves -- ripples in space-time predicted by Einstein.
The name AM CVn came to represent a new class of objects where one white dwarf star is pulling matter from another very compact companion star, such as a second white dwarf. (White dwarf stars are dense remains of sun-like stars that have run out of fuel and collapsed to the size of the Earth.) The pairs of stars in AM CVn systems orbit each other extremely rapidly, whipping around one another in an hour, and in one case as quickly as five minutes. By contrast, the fastest orbiting planet in our solar system, Mercury, orbits the sun once every 88 days.
Despite being known for almost 50 years, the question has remained: where do AM CVn systems come from? New X-ray and optical observations have begun to answer that with the discovery of the first known systems of double stars that astronomers think will evolve into AM CVn systems.
The two binary systems -- known by their shortened names of J0751 and J1741 -- were observed in X-rays by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA’s XMM-Newton telescope. Observations at optical wavelengths were made using the McDonald Observatory’s 2.1-meter telescope in Texas, and the Mt. John Observatory 1.0-meter telescopes in New Zealand.
The artist’s illustration depicts what these systems are like now and what may happen to them in the future. The top panel shows the current state of the binary that contains one white dwarf (on the right) with about one-fifth the mass of the sun and another much heavier and more compact white dwarf about five or more times as massive (unlike sun-like stars, heavier white dwarfs are smaller).
As the two white dwarfs orbit around each other, gravitational waves – that is, ripples in space-time predicted by Einstein – will be given off causing the orbit to become tighter. Eventually the smaller, heavier white dwarf will start pulling matter from the larger, lighter one, as shown in the middle panel, forming an AM CVn system. This process continues until so much matter accumulates on the more massive white dwarf that a thermonuclear explosion may occur in about 100 million years.
One possibility is that the thermonuclear explosion could destroy the larger white dwarf completely in what astronomers call a Type Ia supernova (the type of supernova used to mark large distances across the Universe by serving as so-called standard candles.) However, it’s more likely that a thermonuclear explosion will occur only on the surface of the star, leaving it scarred but intact. The resulting outburst is likely to be about one tenth the brightness of a Type Ia supernova.  Such outbursts have been named -- somewhat tongue-in-cheek -- as .Ia supernovae. Such .Ia outbursts have been observed in other galaxies, but J0751 and J1741 are the first binary stars known which can produce .Ia outbursts in the future.
The optical observations were critical in identifying the two white dwarfs in these systems and ascertaining their masses. The X-ray observations were needed to rule out the possibility that J0751 and J1741 contained neutron stars. A neutron star -- which would disqualify it from being a possible parent to an AM CVn system -- would give off strong X-ray emission due to its magnetic field and rapid rotation. Neither Chandra nor XMM-Newton detected any X-rays from these systems.
AM CVn systems are of interest to scientists because they are predicted to be sources of gravitational waves, as noted above. This is important because even though such waves have yet to be detected, many scientists and engineers are working on instruments that should be able to detect them in the near future. This will open a significant new observational window to the universe.
The paper reporting these results is available online [] and is published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters. The authors are Mukremin Kilic from the University of Oklahoma in Norman, OK; J.J. Hermes from the University of Texas at Austin in TX; Alexandros Gianninas from the University of Oklahoma; Warren Brown from Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, MA; Craig Heinke from University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Canada; Marcel Ag¨ueros from Columbia University in New York, NY; Paul Chote and Denis Sullivan from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand; and Keaton Bell and Samuel Harrold from University of Texas at Austin.
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass., controls Chandra's science and flight operations.
Image credit: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss